We’ve had a bunch of these sorts of posts recently with the new Tinker Bell Meet and Greet and the opening of Kabuki Cafe at Epcot. I guess one more wouldn’t kill you, would it? I think we’re going to have to scale this sort of thing down a bit this coming week as there is a lot of stuff I should be attending to, namely the “easyPlans,” site redesign, and several secret projects that I don’t think your security clearance covers. While I think we can agree touring theme parks is more fun than agonizing over “the data,” sometimes we all have to do things we don’t like to do. I also have 20 pounds of Dole Whip powder coming in the mail tomorrow, so I would have to guess I’ll be spending most of my time eating over the next few days.
Here’s an image I suppose you do have the security clearance for. This is “easyWDW 2.0,” which will have a much easier to use interface. I think we can agree the current site layout sucks. It works for “what it is,” but it certainly isn’t ideal. The new design should be much easier to navigate and understand. The big problem is trying to organize the information logically.
Here we are arriving at around 12:00pm. You’ll see me recommending that you avoid Spaceship Earth until after 1pm because so many people arriving between 10:30am and 12pm instinctively head to it because they imagine it’s a “headlining attraction.” Give it two hours and there won’t be much of a wait at all. This is one of the rare rides that actually has shorter wait times in the afternoon than the morning. There isn’t much else out here in the front of Epcot and people won’t be naturally passing it until they exit. Because Soarin’ and Test Track will have significantly longer waits from 10am through close, we want to head to one or both of those as early as possible.
Of all the major theme parks, Epcot’s Guest Relations is probably the hardest to find. It’s on the far left of the Park, past Spaceship Earth. If you ever want to freak out on someone that basically can’t do anything other than say, “I’m so sorry,” this is the place to do it.
Future World is busiest from 11am – 4pm as more and more people arrive. Wait times tend to begin decreasing around 4pm, as more and more people move on to the World Showcase. It’s still not a good time to ride Soarin’ or Test Track because wait times will still be long, but the other Future World attractions will be even less popular and fewer people will be around. If you have to ride Test Track and Soarin’ in the standby line and couldn’t get to them in the morning or with FASTPASS, return after 7pm. Keep in mind most of Future World closes at 7pm – Soarin’, Test Track, and Mission Space remain open through 9pm.
This isn’t bad at all for 12:30pm. Test Track had a 90 minute wait at the same time on Friday.
This is a fun fountain area for kids, located straight out from the entrance to Test Track and on the way to the Mission Space Pavilion.
A standby wait of 40 minutes for Test Track with FASTPASS return times at 3pm and a single rider wait of 10 minutes.
The single rider line seemed “too good to be true,” so I jumped in line. The single rider line is also available at Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios. I’m not crazy about the singles line at Test Track or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, though I’ve had good luck at Expedition Everest. The wait will almost always be shorter than the standby wait, but it’s usually longer than I like to wait regardless. The problem is that you don’t know how well the cast member will “take advantage” of the single rider line, how many people are actually in front of you, and you have the lowest priority to be seated. If a large group from a South American tour group has just gotten in the single rider line, the wait could very well be longer than the standby wait. I’ve waited in the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster singles line for 28 minutes when the actual standby wait was less than 15 minutes. This turned out to be an 18 minute wait, which isn’t terrible considering the posted wait time was 40 minutes and it’s 1pm in the afternoon. In the case of Test Track, there is a separate line for single riders and an independent “pre-show area.” Unlike the standby or FASTPASS lines where they shut the doors and play the full pre-show video, the video was simply playing with the doors open as people passed through the room. At Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, you do almost always get to see the full pre-show, but single riders will wait in an elevated area behind the people who entered the regular standby/FASTPASS lines. Overall, the singles line can be a good opportunity if you don’t care about riding with strangers (assuming you’re the member of a group) and don’t want to use FASTPASS. Test Track and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster also have two separate lines/waits – one before the preshow area and then an additional wait after the pre-show. I don’t recommend the singles line in the early morning or very late evening. The standby line will be just as fast or faster in most scenarios.
It’s about 1pm here as we head up through Norway. I’ve always enjoyed Maelstrom – maybe because I have fond memories of it as a child. The people that complain about the video afterward always amuse me. First of all, it’s like four minutes long. Second, it’s HILARIOUS. Wait times are usually ten minutes or less until about 2pm when they jump to 20 or 30 minutes. FASTPASS return times are almost always 40 minutes out, making it easy to grab a set and mill about the Mexico, Norway, or China Pavilions while you wait. Remember, you’ve heard good things about Kringla Bakeri!!
You won’t want to discount World Showcase if you’re interested in Meet and Greets. This line to meet Snow White would be five or more times longer at Magic Kingdom. Check out this week’s Times Guide: https://www.easywdw.com/times-guides/epcot-times-guide-july-31-august-6-2011/ for Meet and Greet times and availability. There are usually some additional characters as well – “Mexico Donald” comes to mind in the Mexico Pavilion. Depending on the time of year, you also may find a variety of “random” characters out and about, particularly in between Canada and the UK Pavilions near World ShowPlace and in the American Adventure.
On our way through Germany and on the way to Italy around 1:30pm. Epcot is our “most recommended Park” again today.
On through the American Adventure and into Japan. I took this second picture to show you Kabuki Cafe in context. You can see it in the back there, past the Funnel Cake stand and tree. Let me know if you need me to add an arrow.
In the last Kabuki Cafe review, I promised I would be returning for the edamame, the miso soup, and a specialty beverage. Well, I was only partially lying. I skipped the miso soup. It was just such a tiny bowl for $3.50. My assumption is it’s the same as they serve at Yakitori House, which is really nothing to fawn over in the first place. Anyway, this is the edamame ($3.50) and Green Tea Matcha Latte ($4.50). It didn’t strike me as a lot of edamame for $3.50, but I’m not exactly an expert in the edamame field. I don’t think I’ve ever had it before (don’t get out much, remember), so I really don’t have much to compare it to. My assumption is that they’re just fine – nicely salted and a little crunchy. I hope you’re supposed to eat the whole thing or I looked really stupid. I didn’t know what to expect from the latte, but it was really good. It’s a chilled beverage served in a standard 12oz plastic cup. I’m not sure what was in it – it could have very easily been mostly heavy cream, water, and sugar. It was nice and refreshing though and seemed to be somewhat labor intensive as it took a couple of minutes to prepare. I’m not sure I would necessarily go out of my way to order it again with so many other options, but it was a nice treat if you like green tea and are in the mood for a nice chilled beverage. Kabuki Cafe also has two nice Japanese women working it again. On Thursday, it was “Scott” who was perfectly pleasant, just not particularly authentic. Finally, keep in mind the prices include tax here, which is why they might appear more expensive than other locations. Oh, and if you want to make a kikigori at home, they use this machine – http://www.snowie.com/shavers/shaver_3000.html. It’s sort of fun to say – “The Snowie 3000.”
I’ve never liked Yakitori House, which is where we’re having lunch today. The food has never struck me as high quality or much of a value. The portions aren’t large and it’s nothing particularly special or out of the ordinary, since most of us will have a local joint that is significantly cheaper and has much better food. With tax, you’re looking at a $16+ meal. $12.99 for the “Tonosama combo” and $2.19 for the drink. They only have the 22oz fountain beverage, not the 32oz size. The Tonosama comes with teriyaki chicken, teriyaki beef, teriyaki salmon, steamed vegetables, and rice. They used to serve it with tempera vegetables, but no more. You can count the three bites of chicken just by looking at it. Amusingly, my first bite had a bone in it. The beef is fatty and drenched in unremarkable sauce. I do have positive words to say about the salmon and vegetables. Not sure how you screw up rice though. I’m surprised that Yakitori House gets good reviews from people. I can usually see the value in something, even if it doesn’t particularly interest me or I don’t necessarily enjoy it. But in my opinion, there’s no upside here – it’s expensive, it’s not very good, and the portions aren’t particularly large. Three bites of chicken on a $13 combo? Remember those meatball sliders from the other day that were three for five dollars?
I guess since we’re here, we might as well take a half-full tour of Japan.
This is the replica of Japan’s Itsukushima Shrine, known fondly by many as the “Torii Gate.” It makes a great backdrop for pictures.
One of the widest spaces in the World Showcase. We’ve got Mitukoshi Department Store on the ground floor to our right and Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining table service restaurants above it. The small hut across the way houses a variety of beverages and candy that can also be found inside Mitsukoshi. Straight back is the Bijutsu-kan, which houses a collection of Japanese art. It’s also one of the entrances/exits to Mitsukoshi and where you’ll find the Pavilion’s Kidcot station. Also across from Mitsukoshi, behind the hut, is the Yakitori House quick service we were just discussing. To the left, out of sight, is the Gojo-No-To, which is pictured below.
A beautiful structure.
Another shot of Mitsukoshi Department Store on the ground level.
This is many people’s single favorite store in all of Walt Disney World, your author’s included. There’s just so much stuff here that is unique.
The “Pick A Pearl” is extremely popular.
Kimonos – not my style this year, but you never know what will be hot for 2012.
In case you’re not getting along with the mother-in-law, they sell weapons.
And solar-powered owl clocks with shaking heads. These are hilarious – I almost bought one. Maybe next time. $24.95.
You may remember our favorite beverage from the Kabuki Cafe review. These suckers are $2.99 each in a variety of flavors. That’s about $1 more than you might pay at your local Asian grocer, but not ridiculous if you won’t have another opportunity to try one. Remember, Kabuki Cafe will sell you a chilled one for just 32 cents more if you want it now. And it’s America, who doesn’t want it now?
Wall of candy. A very popular destination. And a tough choice.
A look at its vastness.
I suppose if you were addicted to crystal meth and couldn’t find any in Orlando, this would come in handy.
This is inside the Bijutsu-kan gallery. You’ll find a Japanese art/culture exhibit in here. It does change from time to time, so it may very well be different the next time you visit. 99.8% or more of Disney World visitors skip it, but it’s worth popping into if you have a minute. It’s also dark and air-conditioned, which are two big pluses in July. The current exhibit shows how traditional Japanese characters are reemerging in the contemporary world.
This is that beverage/snack hut. They have a cooler with some cold beverages inside and to your left, so check it out if there’s one that you’re interested in that isn’t chilled inside the Mitsukoshi Department Store.
This is Miyuki, one of only 15 Japanese candy artists in the world (and the only woman). For front row “seats,” head over to this stand about five minutes before the show is scheduled to begin. The times are listed in the Times Guide and out front of the Mitsukoshi Department Store, near the promenade walkway. It’s definitely worth taking a minute to check her out along with many of the other scheduled acts throughout World Showcase.
Little busier moving on to France.
And even more people in the UK Pavilion. It’s about 2:45pm, which is when a lot of people start moving through World Showcase. Many of them will start with the United Kingdom and Canada.
We’re off to Hollywood Studios via the boats. This is a quick shot of the ticket window and guest relations outside of the International Gateway. With only two windows at each, it usually isn’t the place you want to be taking care of your ticket purchases. Try to do it elsewhere if possible as just a few people in front of you can mean long waits.
For Part 2, we’ll take a quick stroll through Hollywood Studios. TouringPlans.com has it as the only “Park to Avoid” while this website rates it as “highly recommended.” Who was right? Let’s just say we’ll be seeing 10 minute waits at Tower of Terror, the lowest posted wait at that time period since late June when Fantasmic wasn’t scheduled.